The Same, But Different: 1927 Cleveland 4-45 and 4-61 Motorcycles

A pair of 1927 Cleveland four-cylinder motorcycles, a model 4-45 and a model 4-61, together in one place.

| May/June 2017

1927 Cleveland 4-45 and 4-61 Motorcycles
45ci (737cc) air-cooled sidevalve inline four, 2-1/4in x 2-13/16in bore and stroke (4-45)/61ci (985cc) air-cooled sidevalve inline four, 2-1/2in x 3-1/16in bore and stroke (4-61)
Schebler GX-1 (4-45)/Schebler DeLuxe (4-61)
3-speed handshift, chain final drive
6v, magneto ignition
Dual-downtube steel cradle/90in (2,286mm)
Double leading link forks with enclosed springs, rigid rear
8in (203mm) twin shoe contracting rear
3.85 x 20in front and rear
350lb (159kg) 4-45/360lb (164kg) 4-61
Seat height:
27in (686mm)
Fuel capacity:
4gal (15.1ltr)
Price then:
$345 (4-45)/$365 (4-61)

At one point before World War I there were more than 100 motorcycle factories in the U.S. Most of these were gone before 1914, killed off by changes wrought by the Great War then raging in Europe and the popularity of the Ford Model T, but a few soldiered on until the Great Depression.

A surprising number of the products of these early American manufacturers have survived and are now, not surprisingly, valuable collectibles. One highly sought-after motorcycle was made by the smallest of America’s inline four builders — Cleveland.

Although America’s love affair with the automobile, immeasurably sparked before World War I with the introduction of the Ford Model T in 1908, had dried up much of the market for commuter motorcycles, a few small, inexpensive machines continued to be popular. One of these was the Cleveland 2-stroke. Built in Cleveland, Ohio, this peppy, fun-to-ride 221cc single built up a following. Introduced in 1915, it was gradually improved over the years, its engine growing to 269cc to cope with increased weight of 195 pounds.

Looking to expand their market beyond their 2-stroke single, in 1923 Cleveland bought rival Reading Standard, which was known for its sidevalve technology and front suspension. Cleveland studied Reading Standard’s twins and built a 4-stroke single, but it wasn’t a success and likely set back company finances. But instead of returning to its 2-stroke single, management decided to build a 4-cylinder motorcycle.

Built for America

The first inline four was built in Belgium by FN in 1905. Perry Pierce, the son of the manufacturer of the exclusive Pierce-Arrow automobile, bought one while he was on a tour of Europe and persuaded Pop Pierce to front him the money to start a factory to build a similar motorcycle. Built from 1909 to 1914, the Pierce failed — it cost too much to build and had only mediocre performance.

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